Diagnosed with a kidney mass?
We understand the anxiety that a diagnosis of kidney mass can bring to the patient and their family. The most important thing one can do is to learn about this disease and enlist the help of an experienced team of physicians. Urologists at Johns Hopkins evaluate and manage hundreds of patients each year with kidney masses and are happy to share their expertise with you.
Not all kidney masses are cancer.
The risk of a kidney mass being a cancer are based on a number of important criteria. The most important first step in the evaluation of a kidney mass is a CT scan or MRI with contrast (not all patients can safely have intravenous contrast). Important criteria the kidney cancer experts will consider include:
- Tumor size: larger tumor are much more likely to be cancers and potentially aggressive cancers. Any tumor smaller than 4cm is considered "small."
- Cystic or solid in nature: cystic masses contain fluid while solid masses do not. Solid masses are much more worrisome for malignancy than cystic masses. In fact, most cystic masses are benign.
- Patient characteristics: women are more likely to have benign masses than men. Patients with end-stage renal disease (on dialysis) are more likely to have benign behaving cancers. Some patients have hereditary kidney cancers which can be more aggressive.
- Tumor characteristics: some kidney masses contain fat which is easily seen on CT or MRI. These "fat-containing" tumors are called AML's or angiomyolipomas due to the presence of abnormal growths of blood vessels (angio-), muscle (-myo-), and fat (-lipoma). They are 100% benign and can often be observed.